At the time of feudal Japan martial arts were called Bujutsu, BU meaning martial and JUTSU meaning technique, similar to Kenjutsu or the art of handling the katana. Over two and a half centuries, during the Tokugawa Shogunate, practice of martial arts took a new dimension.
Bujutsu grew into a BUDO. The technique known as Jutsu grew into Do or Way of life, thus, leading to Kenjutsu becoming Kendo, Kyujutsu becaming Kyudo, Jiujutsu becoming Judo and Aikijutsu becoming Aikido.
Training in Budo was aimed at achieving higher values than those obtained in Bujutsu. While in Bujutsu technical efficiency was of the highest importance, in Budo, martial techniques were used as a means towards deeper understanding of one’s own self. With Kenjutsu becoming Kendo, the technique of the sword became “a way of the sword,” evoking the need to develop physical and technical abilities while achieving the highest mental and spiritual values.
The Katana, a symbol of the samurai spirit, was not meant to cut the opponent but rather to cut down one’s own prejudices, ignorance, arrogance and egotism. Budo martial arts were not considered sports; on the contrary, Budo martial arts were conceived as strict and even harsh disciplines, which were meant to train mind through daily training of the chosen martial discipline.
However, the ideogram BU can be also interpreted as discontinued warfare, in which the essence of Budo is not only in achieving combat readiness and abilities, but in finding peace and self-mastery. Self-cultivation requires persistence, patience and time, and in following such a way, commitment and determination are much more important than haste.
Karate-Do practice should have a substantial impact on the lives of those practicing it. By attaining the highest technical and physical skills, while not developing moral and ethical values leads to deviation from the authentic essence of Karate-Do.
The development of martial philosophy inevitably led to the creation of the samurai strict Bushido code. The Bushido code was influenced by various teachings and doctrines; crucial influences came from Zen, the Chinese philosopher Confucius and from the Japanese native Shinto religion. This created a unique life ideology that has for centuries influenced the formation of the entire Japanese nation.
The ideal of the samurai warrior was created. The Samurai is honest and brave, and above all has refined sense of justice. Honour and dignity are the highest values meaning he will not hesitate to lay down his life in order to defend them.
Zen is meditation, contemplation. Zen is daily personal experience, ”everyday mind”
Zen is a way which leads to the self understanding as well as to understand the world we live in.
Zen is not religion it is a way of understanding life, while actively searching for the right path.
Zen cannot be accurately described in words nor theoretically explained, because Zen is a personal, inner experience.
Zen can be understood only by practice, because practice is its essence and the experience acquired at the time of exercise. In addition to the classical way of practicing Zen in the seated Zazen position (Za-sitting, and Zen-meditating), it can also be practiced in the standing position, (Tachizen), and in motion, (Ugokizen).
The authentic approach towards practicing of Karate-Do is a form of Zen in motion (Ugokizen).
The actual body posture is not of importance as much as the idea of practice. The goal is to free the control of the conscious mind and reach the state of the “absent mind,” also known as Mushin and literally translated as No Mind state. Mushin is a mental act where conscious thinking ceases and that is the core of Zen.
In Japan, Zen is known as the philosophy of the samurai. When one cut of the katana determines life or death, time does not exist as there is only a moment for timely reaction. That is possible only when mind is free from thoughts. Reaching the state of mind free thoughts is the pinnacle in Zen training, so it is only logical that Zen was an inseparable part of the samurai’s tradition.
Meditation in motion
Dynamic zen is a way of reaching enlightenment through perfecting, whole body movement and technique. Our karate training takes the form of martial training; effective self-defence, awareness, and understanding of space and timing. However, as per the teaching of the samurai the also leads to a more peaceful way of life:
” He who knows others is wise; He who knows himself is enlightened.
He who conquers others is strong; He who conquers himself is mighty.
He who knows contentment is rich; He who keeps on his course with energy has will.
He who does not deviate from his proper place will long endure.
He who may die but not perish has longevity.”
- Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu